In the spirit of fair and healthy competitive rivalries, Apple just axed all Epic Games products from the App Store following the Fortnight debacle.
Everyone is mad about Apple’s App Store guidelines right now, especially when it comes to cloud gaming services. Microsoft isn’t bringing Project xCloud to iOS. Google’s Stadia app can’t let iPhone users actually play games. Facebook also had to axe the ability to play games for its Facebook Gaming iOS app to be allowed in the App Store. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of smaller, non-gaming app developers who have had their apps kicked out of the App Store after seemingly arbitrary enforcement of Apple’s guidelines.
But Fortnite developer Epic Games took a bold step toward telling Apple what it thinks of the company’s App Store policies, possibly attempting a loophole to get around things. Fortnite has now been kicked out of the App Store. And Epic is suing.
Epic Games introduced the ability to pay the company directly for V-Bucks in the Fortnite app on the App Store and in Google Play store for Android, bypassing the in-app payment methods in both apps. On top of that, Epic Games is giving users a 20% discount for using the direct payment method. According to Apple, in a statement to the Verge, this is in violation of App Store guidelines, which states that apps offering in-game currency for real money cannot use a direct payment method.
3.1.1 In-App Purchase:
If you want to unlock features or functionality within your app, (by way of example: subscriptions, in-game currencies, game levels, access to premium content, or unlocking a full version), you must use in-app purchase. Apps may not use their own mechanisms to unlock content or functionality, such as licence keys, augmented reality markers, QR codes, etc. Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.
Before removal, a screenshot of the Fornite app on iOS clearly showed that users have the option to either purchase V-bucks through the App Store or send a direct payment to Epic Games.
“Today, we’re also introducing a new way to pay on iOS and Android: Epic direct payment. When you choose to use Epic direct payments, you save up to 20% as Epic passes along payment processing savings to you,” Epic Games announced in a press release.
The problem for Apple is that both it and Google have policies related to purchases that are consumed outside of their respective app stores. Both allow users to make payments outside of the app.
3.1.5(a) Goods and Services Outside of the App: If your app enables people to purchase goods or services that will be consumed outside of the app, you must use purchase methods other than in-app purchase to collect those payments, such as Apple Pay or traditional credit card entry.
Developers offering products within another category of app downloaded on Google Play must use Google Play In-app Billing as the method of payment, except for the following cases:
Payment is solely for physical products.
Payment is for digital content that may be consumed outside of the app itself (e.g. songs that can be played on other music players).
In-app virtual currencies must only be used within the app or game title for which they were purchased.
Video: Epic Games’ parody of Apple’s 1984 Macintosh Commercial
Fortnite is available on multiple platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS, and users can link their profiles together so they can play with the same account across all platforms. This means that someone could purchase V-Bucks through the Android and iOS apps and spend them at a later date from their console or PC. So technically those users appear to be purchasing “goods or services” that can be consumed outside of the app.
That explain why users can, for instance, purchase books through Amazon’s Kindle app on Google Play without having to go through Google Play In-app Billing. Those books can be read on a Kindle device, and they’re digital content, so that means they can be “consumed outside of the app itself.” Google Stadia on the App Store is another example, since it doesn’t require an in-app payment method. Apple doesn’t allow users to play Stadia games on iOS, so they have to play, or “consume” games outside of the app.
It seems like Apple may have just violated its own guidelines that allow users to pay for goods to be consumed outside of the app by removing Fortnite from its store, but we’re guessing Apple doesn’t care. We’re also waiting to see if Google will follow Apple’s lead and remove Fortnite from Google Play.
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